Adedayo Ojo’s trajectory would perhaps have been very different if he had not obeyed a divine guidance to leave Transnational Corporation of Nigeria in 2009 and focus on starting Caritas Communication Group, which many of his friends advised against. Visionary, creative, stylish, industrious and eloquent, Ojo did not miss his way as a communication specialist though he had wanted to make impact in broadcast journalism but gave in after several failed attempts. He is also the Chairman of Orpheus Communications, owners of City FM; Managing Director of Springboard Integrated Services and a co-founder of Proxima Energy Limited. The journalist turned entrepreneur shares his grass to grace story, career path, love life and next steps with Omolabake Fasogbon
Ruminating over a Mongolian proverb: “If you are sick, talk about your life; if you are better, think about your gold”, it quickly dawned on Adedayo Ojo that very early enough, he needed to maximise his wellness and youthfulness to push towards not just gold or alloy but pure gold. In reminiscence, he recalled that climbing the ladder to the top doesn’t come so easy especially for someone from a humble parentage.
He narrated passionately: “I grew up in a four-room bungalow owned by my father in Modakeke, Osun State. It was in that same house that I, my siblings, father, mother, grandmother, my divorced grand aunt, two uncles and my two other aunts all lived. Without saying too much, you can have an idea of the kind of life I lived, growing up. From age seven, I started sleeping in the sitting room on the mat with eight other kids sharing a mat. My father and mother were primary school teachers. At a time, my father quit teaching, worked briefly in a cooperative organisation and started a business, but the business failed just about the time I gained admission into the university. So, I picked up a part time teaching job at Garage Olode, a village midway between Ile-Ife and Ondo. I had to shuttle between University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and the village thrice a week to do part-time teaching, so I could get money to sustain my education. But this distraction didn’t affect my academic performance. As a matter of fact, my worst result in the university was in the first year when my dad was still able to sponsor me. Looking back, I see my dad’s business failure as the hand of God to prepare me for the future. I also had the responsibility to support my four siblings from the money I earned from teaching. While undergoing the national youth corps scheme (NYSC), I organised afternoon tutorials for secondary school students and by the end of my youth service, I had saved enough money to buy my first car.”
Having lived with extended family members all packed in one modest homestead, the golf enthusiast had tasted the low part of life and vowed to make a difference even if it will involve taking multiple jobs. He started life as a journalism teacher at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) where he taught News English and Public Relations in addition to working as a part time examiner for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the Institute of Purchasing & Supply. But the proceeds from those jobs were meagre compared to the life he wanted for himself. He combined those with a full-time journalism job at Concord Press of Nigeria (owned by the late MKO Abiola) as a sub-editor, and later as a banking and finance correspondent, but that still did not suffice for his dream life.
The next move was to explore another sector and as fate would have it, he found his way in the banking sector and finally in the lucrative oil & gas sector. “I believe my engagement in Mobil Producing Nigeria (ExxonMobil) was divine because I already forgot I applied for a job. I received a call the very day the interview held asking why I was not at the venue yet whereas the panel was almost rounding off the session. I became surprised because I had forgotten that I applied but I summoned courage and went. It was about 30 minutes’ drive from the bank where I worked. The rest is history today.”
His excuse for opting out of the pen profession is curious! Does that mean that the journalism profession is not promising? He said: “I must confess that journalism is indeed one of the best professions. I enjoyed being a writer and indeed, I became the pioneer Secretary of the Commonwealth Journalists Association in Nigeria. But because of my poor background, I desired a life that’s much better than what journalism could offer. By the time I left Concord in the late 80’s, I was earning about 800 Naira or thereabout which was a lot of money”. Asked how he would encourage an aspiring journalist who equally desires a large life to pursue a career in journalism, he replied frankly: “Journalists should look at themselves, the job and decide on what they want to do. The decision also entails defining their values.”
Even with an exciting and prosperous career in ExxonMobil and later Transcorp, he dared to be his own boss, a tough decision it was and like Sir Ranulph Fiennes who from record is said to be the bravest man in the world, he set out to run Caritas in 2009, although he had registered the company since 1999, at the peak of his ExxonMobil career. A number of my friends thought I was mad to have left a high-profile job in the oil industry. They discouraged me but I was undeterred. I glorify God that I made that decision. Caritas has three subsidiaries today- Caritas PR, Caritas Communications and Caritas Digital and yet, we are not done’, he enthused.
Talking about his calling, communication, one can’t but be fascinated. Without mincing words, it is his passion. Excitedly, he harped on communication as being indispensable to business, government, humans and animals; like a lecturer wanting to win an argument.
Right from childhood, he had a rascally and exuberant tendency, no wonder even as a young man, he was already looking forward to having a family in the future and that was why he rejected the option of being a reverend father as he is from a core Catholic home.
“I am from a disciplined Catholic background, however, boys will always be boys. Thank God for my Canadian mentor, late Rev Fr. Fabian Cloutier, who guided my steps during adolescence. He rescued me from wayward adolescent tendencies. He was my French teacher, parish priest, wedded my parents, baptised me as well as my school principal. So, by force, by fire, like MFM would say, I became a focused young man. Yes, I was persuaded by my very good friend, now the current Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Oyo, the Most Rev Dr. Emmanuel Ade Badejo to come to the seminary, but then, as an adolescent, I wanted the other option! Although none of us knew anything about practical experience of sexual intimacy but I looked forward to it. So, the option of going to the seminary was out!
Narrating his love life, a man or woman who had never fallen in love would strive to have a taste of it. Asked how he wooed his wife? With a sudden exclamation, he answered: ‘oh! You may have to ask her that question but one thing I know is that I didn’t make the first move, she did. But she will never agree. Back then, I admired her from afar because she was beautiful with extremely elegant steps. Oh! when my wife walks, you can’t just miss her swag and to me, that was the first attraction. However, she also liked me and stylishly demonstrated it. But in those days women don’t approach men. All she did was that she was courteous and very nice to me and I got the cue”, he chuckled. Continuing, he said: “But then, she’s from a strict Catholic home, I dare not go to her house, but if I must do at all, it will be through my same friend and brother, now Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, a seminarian then. You know seminarians are respected and accepted in every home. Other than that, we were only exchanging letters.”
Wondered if it’s a crime or sin to visit the home of a would-be spouse? After taking a deep breath, he reacted: “Well, all I can say is that as a would-be bride, it is not a sin to visit your future husband but it becomes a sin when you sleep in his home and indulge in unacceptable pre-marital intimacy.” Speaking in a stern voice, pre-marital sex doesn’t seem to go well with him but when asked if he avoided same as a bachelor, he replied, “It is a story for another day but what I can say is today, I know better what the scriptures say about that.”
Quite a fortunate man, at under 40 years, he was already heading a full department at ExxonMobil. Not denying God’s goodness and presence, he also gave the glory to his wife, who he said has always supported him in every way especially spiritually: “She’s a wonderful woman. She sacrificed her career for the family; she influenced my conversion to genuine Christianity. But I had no option than to fully give my life to Christ. But guess what, there is nothing as sweet as Jesus, I wish I knew intimately as I do now when I was a teenager.”
Business they say is not all about money, most especially when one’s credibility or faith is at stake. So, a Chinese proverb goes thus: One cannot carve a rotten wood. The question was thrown to him being a reputation management specialist. Would he carve a rotten wood if the opportunity comes with a mouth-watering offer despite his Christian faith? This appeared to be a tough question but he eventually broke it as he said: “A rotten wood can be likened to a person with an extremely bad image and you are asking if I can manage such case because of my faith. Well, we are in business not for charity but to make money, but in the process, there must be boundaries as to what one does. For instance, if a client like Evans (the alleged serial kidnapper) approached me to correct his image, I’m sorry I won’t take it because in his case, lives were lost. What is bad cannot be hidden for long.”
At close to 60, he is at the verge of winding down, surprisingly, he said he is retiring to devote more time to God’s work, to know more about his creator and bring more people into the kingdom of God. But he doesn’t seem to be the typical Nigerian man that bequeaths property to children. He quipped: “I want to enjoy the little I have with my wife. I can’t wait to begin a new life with my wife. I have worked hard and deserve some decent rest and pleasure. I don’t believe in acquiring property for the sake of bequeathing same to children. My wife and I have given our son a worthy inheritance which is good values and quality education. By God’s grace he is doing well on his own.”
On his stake in City FM, he explained: “City FM is a lifestyle station that was started by a group of professionals who eventually sold it to some business men. I got into it through one of the business men who bought into the idea. I invested in City FM not because of money but to remain a relevant influencer. Anyone who is looking to make money shouldn’t invest in the media.”
Does he nurture interest in politics? With a grin, he answered: “We are all political animals. On a more serious note, I will be willing to share experience and counsel if the opportunity exists, but I am not looking forward to contesting for an elective office.”
Finally, he has a word for the youths: “To become a man is not a day job. For success hungry youths, all I can offer as an advice is for them to set out early in life. If you must reach your destination at all, pray hard, work hard and have a focus but you must set out early in life. More importantly, make Christ your cornerstone.”